Dear PoPville – Looking for advice on bicycle touring in/around DC

Photo by PoPville flickr user mixedeyes

“Dear PoPville,

I’ve been thinking of getting into bicycle “touring” which I’m not even is the right word for it – Basically I’m looking to put on some spandex and ride 60 miles like the folks in Rock Creek Park every weekend but have absolutely zero knowledge of where to start.

An obvious step is to a bike store and talk with folks there, but before looking into a bicycle purchase I wanted to learn more and maybe experience it first. (Buying a bike can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars which is quite a commitment for something I have never done.)

Are there any riding clubs here in DC that offered advice to beginners, rent bikes (do we do that here?), will let newbies along on rides, etc. Years ago I remember hearing about a DC bike club that had an online calendar of beginners sessions/classes and searching has led me to nowhere.”

33 Comment

  • Check out The Bike Rack on Q by 14th. They have a Saturday beginners ride that goes about 30 miles and will help you learn some important group riding skills.

    If you’re shopping around for a bike, I’d start there and also check out Bicycle Space by the convention center and Revolution Cycles in Georgetown. All of the shops have pretty helpful staff who can help you figure out exactly what you want/ need in a bike and let you go on some test rides.

    Happy cycling!

    • +1. Don’t be intimidated by what you think a “shop ride” is. Yes, there are members of the racing teams that come along, but all of their rides are no drop (you don’t get left behind). The 30-mile Saturday ride is very mildly paced along Rock Creek and perfect if you want to check out what group riding is all about (folks ride everything from mountain bikes to hybrids to race bikes); the Sunday 40-miler (or 60 or 80 or 100 depending on what groups split off from the main pack) is geared more towards intermediate riders. But trust me: even if you don’t think you are ready for it, give it 4-6 weeks and show up every week. Get out and ride!

      • OP here — Sorry if this is an ignorant question, but can beginners really do 30 miles of riding? I’ve been sitting in a cubicle for 8 years and am very soft in the middle. Would rather not drag the pack back with my poor cardio.

        • The best thing about going on a group ride is “THE DRAFT”!!! Seriously, the first ride I did over 20 miles I was pretty freaked out, but I told the people I was with it was my first time and they just told me to hang onto a wheel at the back. I did 40 miles that day, and though I was sore, it wasn’t too bad at all. The draft provides a HUGE amount of energy savings to those in it.

    • -1. I would suggest finding other places than the Bike Rack. My experience has been that their shop (and staff) is set up more for people who are triathletes, etc rather than weekend riders. I would recommend Bicycle Space or City Bikes – I’ve had better experiences with both. I wasn’t a biker until about 4 years ago, and now I love it. It’s my favorite form of exercise and recreation. I also recommend WABA – being a member gets you discounts, and I found their programming extremely helpful. Good luck!!

  • whatever you do, stay away from the metropolitan branch trail!! (unless of course you have a heavy duty chain or U-lock that you’re willing to wield as protection). 😉

    • Go to Bicycle Space. Tell the nice lady or gentlemen there what kind of bike you’re interested in. They will let you ride it in one of their group rides (I’d suggest the Nice and Easy ride at 10:00 on Saturday/Sunday which goes ~10 miles).

      • OP here – they really let you “borrow” or trial-ride a bike? That is a fantastic thing I had never considered.

      • I haven’t tried any of their group rides yet, but I second Bicycle Space. I am a totally lame, pathetic, timid cyclist who needed to take my bike for a tune-up and really wanted to avoid the rudeness and condescension that from past experience and bajillions of Yelp reviews seems to be ingrained in the organizational culture of bike shops. Bicycle Space, happily, breaks that mold–they were super-nice and patient. I haven’t yet tried this place either, but if you’re looking for a rental option with maximum convenience and you don’t mind the prices, this place will deliver a rental bike to you:

    • Yeah, except the one thing I’ve found is that the met branch trail has some really good looking guys and gals on it. I’ve ended up dating half a dozen gorgeous people I met on that trail. So, on the one hand, you might get mugged…on the other…

  • Check out the Bike Arlington forum –

  • Potomac Pedalers is also a good group to check out. They have rides for people of all levels: You don’t have to be a member to ride.

    WABA also has some good resources:

    Enjoy! DC is a great biking city!

    • OP here — I saw the Potomac Pedalers website but there is very little information for true beginners. At least that I could find but I looked for a while last night. I’m starting from absolute 0 and there isn’t a “come talk to us” option anywhere.

  • Don’t wear spandex. You’ll just look like an idiot if you do,

    • When you’re biking 60 miles, you can more about comfort than looks. You sound like one of the stars of “Mean Girls”

      • I go on long rides pretty much every weekend and I wear cotton shorts and a t-shirt. Never have any problems with comfort. I’ll be wearing my cotton shorts when I do a 50 mile ride in two weeks.

        • That’s asinine. Spandex with padding is comfortable and practical for long rides. Everyone on longer rides with PP and other DC clubs wears spandex.

          Enjoy your chaffed ass next week Anon.

          On the other hand, there’s no need to get all geared up for your 5 mile commute guys.

          • Hey y’all….It’s Lycra these days…lycra.

          • I’ve been riding a long time with no spandex or lycra and I never get a rash. Also, I ride a hybrid, which makes me an uncool amateur to all of the road bike riders. You can call me “Fred” and I won’t care.

        • Enjoy the rash!

    • there are padded bike shorts that are comfortable and don’t show off your prince albert.

  • Stay off the MBT for the love of it all!!! You’ve been warned!!!

  • Bike up McArthur Blvd. You can make that a 30 mile round trip ride. Pick it up from M St in Gtown.

  • My vote is for WABA…with some great resources for all sorts of rides & skill levels, they also have some great links to the trails and established rides around the area.

    Bicycle Space on 7th is a great resourse and also does some great rides to start off. They do 10mi weekend rides & let you do test rides to try out a bike tou have tour eye on. I picked up my Surly LHT there a couple years back and couldnt be happier with the service and quality

  • There’s a couple of guys who sell used bikes at the Courthouse Flea Market on Saturdays and the Georgetown Flea Market on Sundays. They’re nice bikes at reasonable prices. I bought one from them, and it’s been great. Maybe a bit more expensive than Craigslist, but the bikes are less likely to be stolen goods.

  • goaldigger

    Friend of mine just published a book called “Best Bike Rides DC” (you can check out his website here:

  • Apparently, I’ll now need to stay off the MBT for my daily commute….to and from work…that I have been doing for over a year now….with no incidents to speak of.
    I’ll also need to warn all the other users I see on a daily basis that it’s not safe.
    You guys crack me up.

  • Read the book “Just Ride” by Grant Petersen.

  • So I might be a little late to this, but here is my advice. When I moved here 3 years ago, I had never done any “road” riding. I bought a $200 bike on Craigslist and rode it for a year and a half to make sure I would actually ride and that I liked it. I ended up liking the workout sold it on craigslist (for more than I bought it for – win) and went to Hudson Trail during one of their big bike sales and spent $500 on a bike that was normally $950. Got a solid Fuji road bike and have already put 330 miles on it in 4 months of riding this year off and on. I would recommend them if you are thinking about a bike b/c the prices are much better than the shops in the city from what I can tell, plus you get free tune ups for life on the bike (that can be a $50-$100 investment each year if you decide to get it done professionally).

    As for riding, I would reccomend riding the trails in Northern VA to get a feel for it and build up your endurance before doing a group ride. Trails like Mount Vernon, Cutsis(sp), and W&OD trails are all good – accessible by the Jefferson Memorial and bike lane on the 14th Street Bridge. These are well marked, don’t have to worry about traffic, and there are a pretty good variety of distances (hell, turn around when you are tired and head back at any time). The only downside is that they can be packed closer to the city, but as you get farther out, you have much more room and can go faster. The Mount Vernon ride is a solid 40 miles RT from downtown, and the W&OD trail runs from DCA all the way out past Leesburg, so that’s what, ~80 miles RT, and the Cutsis trail loop is ~20 miles. I did the Rock Creek ride with the Bike Rack last weekend, and I have to agree with others that the beginner ride is a great ride for people just getting into biking. 30 miles on that ride is more like 20-25 with the draft + you meet fellow bikers. Good luck finding the right bike and getting some rides in – it is a great way to spend a few hours!

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